Two teens were arrested Thursday in connection to the Sept. 2 death of a photographer at Hocking Hills State Park, according to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources.
The juveniles, ages 16 and 17 from Logan, were taken into custody by ODNR on charges of reckless homicide. The suspects are not being identified because of their ages.
Victoria Schafer, 44, of Chillicothe, was shooting senior portraits for six high school seniors at Hocking Hills State Park when the incident occurred. She owned her own photography business called Victoria Shafer Photography.
While standing on the steps near Old Man’s Cave around 5:30 p.m., Schafer was struck by a nearly 75-pound log. She was pronounced dead at the scene, and investigators later found evidence the incident was not a natural occurrence.
A tipster told authorities on Oct. 8 that one of the teens sent text messages to a classmate stating that he had done something serious at the park, the Hocking County prosecutor’s office said, according to WBNS TV in Columbus. Both teens subsequently admitted to being involved in forcing the log over the cliff, and were taken into custody, officials said.
The teens are being held at the juvenile detention center in Lancaster, and they had a detention hearing Friday afternoon.
Schafer’s oldest son, John Schafer, is a Dayton resident who said he learned about his mother’s death from his father.
“I was like, ‘Is she OK?’ And he was like, ‘No, she’s dead.’ After that, I didn’t really say anything or think at all,” Schafer said. “I just figured maybe I heard the wrong name on the call, or maybe I was just hearing it wrong. The next day the family found out it wasn’t a tree branch, it was a log. Then (we) found out someone had to dislodge the log and throw it.”
Schafer learned from investigators that they had found the imprint of where the 80-pound log was before it was pushed, and that it could not have naturally rolled from the cliff. Witnesses visiting the park that day told investigators that a group of kids were on the cliff where the log was thrown at the time of the incident.
More information still needs to come from the investigation, Schafer said. But despite grappling with the tragedy of his mother’s death, Schafer said if it was just bad teenage judgment, he would likely show up in court to make a statement that this incident should not ruin their lives.
“If there’s anybody that understands teenagers making mistakes, it’s my mom and me,” he said. “If it was truly just some kids that didn’t know any better or were just being stupid kids, and not anything more than that, I think my mom would understand. They [his family] definitely feel some type of relief knowing that it’s the beginning of the end to putting this to rest. They just want some closure, really. They want to know what happened and they want to know why. But it’s not over yet, we still have a little bit of ways to go.”
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